Top Ten Random Posts on Education

I’ve never written a round-up post before, but I’ve been blogging for a while and now seemed like a good time to take stock of which posts people have read the most and to reshare them. I’ve decided to group them by topic rather than a charts-style Top 10, so here goes….

The maths ones
These are all inter-linked, so I think people have clicked from one to another. Teaching Number Bonds and Teaching the Times Tables both have suggestions for helping children get to grips with these areas. They’re based on things I have tried and found to work well. What’s the Best Order to Learn the Times Tables does what it says on the tin!

The English ones
VCOP is a little out-of-fashion these days, but I don’t think it hurts to remind children to think about it. VCOP Display is a display with a twist that throws in a bit of SPaG with it. A Disco in my Classroom is all about teaching verbs in an intervention group.

The guest post
Teachers- it’s time to face the music was written by the very talented daughter of a friend of mine. A must read for all teachers – see if you can guess which one you are!

The growth mindset ones
Of Einstein and Fish is all about why I hate that picture of the animals standing in a line and being told to climb a tree. In my opinion it’s annoying, nonsensical and a cop-out! When is a test not a test? explains how I turned end of unit tests into a bit of fun and helped the children to become more active learners.

The personal one
I wrote What do you say to someone who’s grieving? when I lost my mom. It’s something we all struggle with but it’s something that rarely gets talked about. A lot of people have told me that they really appreciated me writing this and that they found it very useful.

The random one
I have no idea why Who or what is La Befana? has been so popular. I’m not complaining – just bemused!

It’s a bit of an eclectic mix, but those are the 10 best performing posts on my blog.




Of Einstein and Fish

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

This is a quotation, attributed to Albert Einstein, which is repeated over and again all over the internet every time our government makes a proposal about education that some people disagree with. To me, it’s one of life’s little annoyances. Why?

Well, for starters Albert Einstein never actually said it. If you don’t believe me take a few moments to Google it now, and if you find any proof at all that he did, please leave a link in the comments below.

Secondly, it’s untrue. If fish had never climbed trees there would be no tree-dwelling animals now and there would be no humans. We’d all still be swimming round at the bottom of the oceans.

Thirdly, it’s even more untrue. There are actually fish, living today, which can climb trees. Seriously. Google it.

Fourthly, it’s a downright lie. Not everyone is a genius. Most of us aren’t. The ones who are make it into the history books.

And Lastly? It’s just a cop out! It’s a way of absolving ourselves from the responsibility of educating our children.

When I look back over my childhood, there are two types of teachers who stand out. There are the ones who made me believe I could do anything if I tried and who then gave me the confidence to try, and there are those who told me I’d never climb trees because I was a fish. I’ll never forget Mr Holmes, who saw the potential behind the timid little mouse and gave me a speaking part in the school play. I’ll also never forget the music teacher (who I won’t name) who told me that with a voice like mine I really shouldn’t sing, because over 30 years later I can’t even sing along to the radio if I think someone else is within earshot .

Our job as teachers is not to look at our class and sort them into runners, swimmers, fliers and climbers. Our job is to equip every child with shoes, flippers, wings and ropes and to make sure that every single one of them achieves all of the skills to the best of their ability.

Some of them may run marathons and some may never run further than the corner of the road; some may swim the channel and some may just about doggy paddle their way to a 5m badge; some may soar high above the ground and some may only hover a few centimetres from the floor; some might make it to the top of the tree and some may never make it past the first branch. But with the right teaching and encouragement, there is no reason why any child in a mainstream school, and most children in special schools, shouldn’t run and swim and fly and climb.

So you’ll never find me retweeting nonsense about Einstein and fish. Instead you’ll find me in my classroom, helping some of the children build a ladder to reach the first branch and holding a safety net to encourage the others to reach for the top of the tree. Who’s with me?

The Difference Between Teaching Children and Adults

I was once asked in an interview what I thought the difference was between teaching adults and teaching children.

There is of course the obvious factor that adults are in a classroom because they want to be there and because, for the most part, they have chosen to study the subject you are teaching. Children on the other hand are in the classroom because the law states that they have to be. You would think therefore that the adults would be more motivated.

However, children have learnt to learn, whereas adults have forgotten how. Children come to school each day expecting to learn, and they know that they will be required to put in some effort and take responsibility for their own learning. Adults arrive at their evening class tired after a full day at work and think that sitting in a lesson and just listening is the same as learning. Children are prepared to practise a new skill for a longer period of time because they know they need to. Adults tend to try one or two examples and decide that’s enough, so they don’t complete the embedding process. I’m not criticising. I’m often guilty of this myself.

So much for the difference in learning between adults and children. What about teaching methods? When I first started out I thought that teaching adults and children would be very different. I imagined that teaching adults would be a lot more serious, but this turned out not to be the case. I discovered that the more games I introduced, the more the adults engaged with the lesson and the better they learnt. Songs and video clips proved equally popular. After talking to other teachers of adults I have come to the conclusion that there really is no difference in methods that work.

So, back to the original question: What is the difference between teaching adults and children? I think the main difference is the content and context rather than style. Depending on the subject adults may require content to be more in-depth than children, or they may wish to focus on a smaller area such as handling money and paying household bills. I wouldn’t teach children how to order a beer in a foreign language, whereas this is a favourite for adults! Context for children will focus on their limited life experiences, and relate to school, playground games, holidays. Adults will be less interested in school and playtime, but will relate to the context of work, home and holidays.

What do you think the main differences are?

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